Following God’s Green Lights (by Zach Rios)

If you are anything like me, you want to be confident when you make a decision. Also, if you are anything like me, you have some difficulty making sure that you are making the “right decision.” So, what does this look like for a believer? That question is a complicated one, but I want to pass along two things I have heard that have helped me as I try and figure this out.

One thing that has been very comforting for me is changing my perception of God’s will. The way I commonly hear people describe God’s will is a sort of tightrope-maze type thing where you need to navigate your way through, hoping you don’t take a wrong step and mess it all up. You may have heard something similar. I believe people present this type of idea with good intentions – they don’t want to minimize God’s role in people’s lives. However this view seems to minimize the decision making component that God has given humans.

So what is another perspective of God’s will? I really believe that God is much more concerned with where your focus is, and less on the individual decisions you make. What does that mean? Basically, it means you can pick you cereal in the morning without worrying if you are throwing something off. You can pick this college or that college. It’s ok. The answer isn’t in the decision, it’s in how you make the decision. God’s will for decision making is that He is included at the center of it. Too often when I make decisions, I think through whatever it may be and make a decision, and then pray and ask God if it will work. What needs to happen instead, however, is I need to be praying and allowing the Holy Spirit to guide throughout the process – that is how I stay in step with Him.

The second piece of advice is something that I have heard more recently, and that advice is in regards to the signs that we so frequently want when we are making decisions. I know there have been times in my life where all I wanted is for a neon sign to drop out of the sky and for God to show me what to do – but that doesn’t happen nearly as often as we would want. Why? I think one of the main reasons is because God wants us to trust Him, and He wants to be involved in the process.

I think another major reason is because He is giving us signs, just not neon flashing ones. The signs God gives more often, I believe, are shaped more like traffic lights. One of my high school teachers had a sign on her wall that said “You can’t steer a parked car” and that is basically what this is about. God wants us to trust Him, and He gives us instructions of whether to continue in a direction, slow down, or stop and turn around. This can be difficult because we want control and want to see the big picture – that’s not how Christ works.

I know in the past I have written about decision making, but as the summer season begins there is a lot of transitioning going on – myself included. There are a lot of decisions to be made, and having a proper understanding of how God operates can help us make them more effectively.

Peace During Transition (by Angie Stolba)

Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you saying,

“This is the way; walk in it.”

Isaiah 30:21

Many in the Body of Christ are experiencing a major transition right now. Some sense job changes and relocation, while others are about ready to be launched into ministry. Though the transition is making way for many to enter into their destiny, some are experiencing a fear of the unknown. I believe that the Lord is saying, “Do not fear the future, but lean into Me. I will give you peace in the midst of transition. Now is the time to press into Me like never before. Fast, pray in the Spirit, and stay in the secret place. As you do this, I will instruct you and show you the way.”

There will be no more false starts! There have been times when you have sensed movement forward, only to have things come to a halt. Take heart; things will be different this time. Like Joseph, you have been in a long season of preparation. But assuredly I tell you, there will be no more delays. You are ready now, for you have been prepared by the Lord.

Many will be faced with major, life-altering choices in the upcoming days and weeks ahead. It is vital in this season to press into the Lord and seek His wisdom and council regarding both minor and major decisions. Be sensitive to the Shepherd’s voice. He may direct you in an unexpected direction, but where He leads is always the best, safest place to be.

There is blessing in obedience. I sense the voice of the Father saying, “All that glitters is not gold.” What may appear to look like a great opportunity may not necessarily be the thing that God has for you. Again, it is critical to be Spirit-lead and move only in the direction that He is calling you toward. Even if it doesn’t seem to make sense in the natural, the Lord is putting together puzzle pieces behind the scenes. As you simply obey His leading, one step at a time, the rest of the pieces will fall into place.

Our Heavenly Father has been aligning things on your behalf. I believe that there is a smile across His face and a twinkle in His eye. He is saying now, “This is going to be better than you could ever imagine! Trust in Me.”

Hebrews 11:8 tells a portion of the testimony of Abraham. It reads, “By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going.” Abraham obeyed the Lord and went to a land that God had showed to him, even though he did not know the whole picture. Likewise, you do not have to have everything figured out. Just move when the Lord says to move, and go when He says to go. Truly, obedience is better than sacrifice (1 Samuel 15:22).

The Lord wants to encourage those in the middle of transition, “Fear not, for I am with you. I am trustworthy and faithful, and I will always be. Now is the time to launch out into the deep. Do not fear, for I am walking with you into the unknown. I have already prepared a place for you; continue to trust in Me, My dear beloved.”

“What no eye has seen, what no ear has heard, and what no human mind has conceived”—the things God has prepared for those who love him” (1 Corinthians 2:9).

Rekindling Podcast – Season 02, Episode 09 – Know Thyself Wrap-Up

This is the final episode of the Know Thyself series.  Zach and Shannon bring everything together, talking about how to map out your answers and see what your God-given calling in life is, as well as the next steps to take in your journey.

We passionately hope this season has been an illuminating one for you, encouraging you of your strengths and uniqueness, convicting you of your weaknesses, and inspiring you to seek out a more rewarding way to live life for your Lord!

The Star Witness – a Samaritan Woman (by David Dority)

Think for a moment that you are a witness in a courtroom. You’re called to the stand to give testimony on how you’ve responded to evangelistic opportunities that God has placed in your life over the years.  What does that testimony look like?  What does that testimony sound like?  How does it make you feel?  Are you able to recall chances to share the love of Christ with others that you let pass by because it was inconvenient or uncomfortable

That was me for years, and I don’t mean years back but more like recent years.  Many times I’ve felt the leading of the Holy Spirit to witness or help someone and I gave in to fear.  I balked.  Eventually, after you make the same mistake or the same decision over and over, you begin to wonder why.  What was I afraid of? I’ve come to believe that when we turn away from the chance to share Jesus with someone by telling our story, it is a great indication that we don’t fully understand the concept of God’s grace.  Meaning, it’s usually because we don’t think it’s impactful enough or it doesn’t measure up or it’s just not worthy of being told.  The Bible tells us, though, in Psalm 139 that we are fearfully and wonderfully made.  The New Living Translation tells us in Ephesians 2 that we are God’s masterpiece, created in Christ Jesus to do good works.  We weren’t created by accident or without purpose so we can be certain that our story is worth telling.

For fun, let’s go back to that courtroom but instead of you, we will call the Samaritan Woman to the stand.  That woman that Jesus met by “accident” in John chapter 4.  When the Samaritan Woman met Jesus at the well, she had no idea the star witness she would become in this trial of evangelism.  First of all, Jesus wasn’t “suppose” to be there, now was he?  This would be considered an anomaly in biblical times as Jews despised Samaritans so much they would never have traveled on that path. Yet there He was, in a town we wouldn’t expect to see Him in talking to a woman we wouldn’t expect Him to be talking to.  This interaction, rich with all its facets, is where she testifies before our court.

She testifies to the grace of God when Jesus met her exactly where she was in life.  She was just a sinful woman, performing her daily routine of getting water from Jacob’s well.  When He began witnessing to her about the living water and how it would quench the soul for all eternity, she wasn’t exactly quick to pick up His message and she definitely wasn’t quick to pick up on who He was.  Isn’t that how it usually works when we first begin sharing the love of Christ with someone?  It takes time….and patience.  I can recall now, only twenty-five years later, that I was invited to a youth group event when I was in the tenth grade.  I can’t tell you anything about it other than the fact that I was there, physically there anyway.  It wasn’t until five years later that I came into a relationship with Jesus.  I wonder though, what if the guy who invited me to the youth event hadn’t?  What if that was my only chance and I wasn’t “quick enough” to accept Jesus as my savior?  When talking with the woman, Jesus was ever so patient though and when she finally embraced the reality of who He was she left her valuable water jar and immediately went to tell everyone in town.  I remember after I accepted Jesus as my savior, my friend and I would go up and down the halls of my dormitory at Ramstein Airbase in Germany telling everyone else they should do the same.  It was so exciting.

When the woman realized that Jesus knew of her sins, it was clearly uncomfortable at first.  Once the conviction set in, however, the excitement followed.  I imagine the reality of knowing she was living in sin, yet still being pursued by the God of the universe had to be an emotional rollercoaster of excitement.  The weight of the moment set in quickly realizing she was forgiven and free.  She didn’t go home for weeks or years to practice crafting her testimony or wait until she had taken Christianity 101 through 901 at the local church.  She didn’t wait for Jesus to come and speak to her a second time telling her what appointed times she should go tell others of her encounter.  She left her water pot and went to tell the town, John chapter 4 tells us.

Her testimony is unclouded, her testimony is corroborated and her testimony is convincing but above all else it was simple. That’s what makes her a star witness.  What is your story?  Have you passed up chances to share your faith or what God has done for you?  Have you forgotten that you are fearfully and wonderfully made for a purpose?  Are you waiting until it’s just perfect before you share it?  Remember our story is perfect because He is perfect, not because we tell it well.  Revisit John chapter 4 and see if God might remind you of the enormity of His grace and restore the joy of your salvation.  Then get on the stand and testify!

Rekindling Podcast – Season 02, Episode 07 – Know Thyself “Magnets”

This week, Zach and Shannon look at the sixth question in the Know Thyself series, discussing your ‘magnets’.  What are the people types and situations that you are most drawn to?  Which ones repel you?  How does your earthly nature pull at you? How does your heavenly nature affect you?

We hope this episode brings some clarity (and encouragement) in figuring out some of the details of how you tick!

Contentment: Accepting Good as Good (by Dana Sarchet)

“Imagine yourself as a living house. God comes in to rebuild that house. At first, perhaps, you can understand what He is doing. He is getting the drains right and stopping the leaks in the roof and so on; you knew that those jobs needed doing and so you are not surprised. But presently He starts knocking the house about in a way that hurts abominably and does not seem to make any sense. What on earth is He up to? The explanation is that He is building quite a different house from the one you thought of – throwing out a new wing here, putting on an extra floor there, running up towers, making courtyards. You thought you were being made into a decent little cottage: but He is building a palace. He intends to come and live in it Himself.” C.S. Lewis.

I had this image tucked away in corners of my heart and mind I wasn’t aware of. Until my 27th birthday rolled around.

All day, my friends here in Germany took time out of their limited schedules to celebrate me. One friend even had a present for me to open literally every hour of the day. I don’t think I’ve ever been quite so celebrated before, and yet the entire day I couldn’t shake the feeling that something was wrong.

“What is wrong with me? Everyone is being so kind to me. Why am I feeling sad and disappointed?” And then it hit me. I had this image of 27, and that image screamed everything “adult” to me: house owner, an established career with benefits, beliefs figured out, a pet dog, outings with friends every weekend, an active involvement in my church community, the beginnings of stepping towards the dating world and marriage. I’ve nurtured this image for as long as I can remember—so much so that I wasn’t even aware of it— and suddenly I found myself 27, not having most of these things, crying on my bedroom floor, and wishing that somehow I was a different 27 year old. To me, 27 was an age where people “arrived” in life; there was an ease to it, a confidence and sense of stability, and I felt very, very far from this kind of “arriving.” My life at 27 seemed to pale in comparison to the image I carved for it, and the inconsistency of my reality with this expectation made my heart achy and conflicted.

And on that bedroom floor, trying to reconcile the appreciation and love I felt from my friends with this sense of inadequacy I was feeling,  I realized something—good is good. There really isn’t any degrees of good, any in-betweens or second places. This is where good separates itself from being a preference. Something good might not be preferable, but it’s not more good than X, or less good than Z; if something is good, it’s just good. End of story. Comparison can’t be used to validate the worth of a good thing, then. It’s actually quite useless for that. Comparison can’t even undermine the value of good; it doesn’t have the power for that. But what it can do is actually something much more subtle and dangerous than that: it can so twist and distort our perception to where we can’t even see or receive the good trying to be given to us.

Just as the goodness of God doesn’t need my validation, His gifts don’t either. This age of 27 not looking like what I thought it would doesn’t take away from the immense value of what God has chosen to give and shape within me, a value that’s so much bigger and more relevant to my life than the images I come up with for it.

His gifts often look different from what we imagined they would; sometimes they don’t really quite look like gifts at all. But with a God who’s bigger than our circumstances and preferences—with a God who makes beauty not just out of our own ashes, but out of other people’s ashes that bring pain and difficulty in our lives—we get the privilege of accepting the good He gives and shapes in that season, regardless of what form that good appears in; we get the privilege of accepting Him.

And that, I think, is the secret of contentment.

“I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.  I can do all this through him who gives me strength.” —Philippians 4:11-13

Living Life to the Fullest (by Siu Hsu)

When I was a child, I had all sorts of dreams. I wanted to become a doctor, a singer, a teacher, a pilot, and many other things. I dreamed that I would be somewhere in the world someday helping people in need, and I dreamed that I would be in space seeing things I have never seen before. In those years, the possibilities were endless.

What’s cool about a child’s dreams is that they show a child’s heart. Children are so carefree and they are not yet defined by the world’s standards. They are not concerned about meeting one’s expectations quite yet, so they have fun with life as much as they can. How many of us can still dream like a child? How many times in a day when you think of something you want to do, you are concerned about what others may think?

What I am referring to here is not an escape of responsibilities and to encourage you to do whatever you want without boundaries. My point is, many of us are so afraid of what other people think, so afraid of failing, so afraid of what may happen, and we simply stop living. We may feel so bored or mistreated at our job, and we refuse to change anything. We may be in an abusive relationship but we don’t want to get out because we don’t know what it would be like to live without a certain person. From big decisions to small tasks in daily lives, we are often held back by fear.

If you think back in your life, have you ever pursued something wholeheartedly? Have you done something you believe was God’s will even when other people didn’t agree with you? What was it like? How did you feel? If we live our lives based on what God wants us to do without holding back, what would our lives look like?

There is a great example in the Bible where we can see God’s plans versus man’s fear. In Exodus 3, God reached out to Moses and told him about His plans. He asked Moses to lead the Israelites out of Egypt, because He had heard their cry. But Moses, who was not so sure and confident of himself, told God that he’s nobody, as if God didn’t already know what He was doing. He also had the guts to tell God that he didn’t know what to say to the Israelites, but God patiently answered Moses’ questions and reassured him of His power and will. If Moses hadn’t done what God asked him to do, would he have accomplished as much in his life?

We may laugh at Moses for his stupidity on how he responded to God, but how many times did we respond to God in the same way? How many times did we decide not to do something even when we knew it’s the right thing to do?

Undeniably, Moses was a great man of God, but he was also weak at times like all of us, and it cost him some great things in life. In Numbers chapter 20, God asked Moses to speak to the rock in front of the Israelites, so that water would come out of it. Although Moses did perform a miracle and drew water from the rock, he didn’t speak to it like God had instructed. Instead, he hit the rock twice, because that’s what he did before and it worked. This may not seem like a big deal because in the end, the Israelites still had water to drink, but it was a big deal to God because Moses openly disobeyed God as a leader to the Israelites. The result of this act of disobedience was he would not get to lead the Israelites into the Promised Land. I can’t imagine how regretful Moses was at the time. I bet if he could do it again, he would have obeyed God instead of trusting his own thinking.

The incident Moses encountered showed us how important obedience is to God, but it also showed us how merciful God is even when we did not act according to His will. After Moses died, God had raised up Joshua as the leader to lead the Israelites. Regardless of all the disobedience and grumbling from the people, God still wanted to bless the Israelites with the Promised Land. Joshua chapter 1 was truly an amazing passage, because God promised to be with Joshua like He did with Moses. And since God already knew how scary this task was for Joshua, He reminded Joshua three times in verse 5, 7, and 9 to be strong and courageous, and not be afraid.

What is the Promised Land God has for us? Could we have already gotten there if we had not been held back by our fear? What would it be like to look back and knew that we have trusted God every step of the way? Undeniably, living life to the fullest is beyond scary, but the joy this full life could bring is also beyond our imagination. So, what does it take to live a full life?

First of all, we must know God deeply. If we only rely on our own strength and own understanding, then we will only move toward the direction of this world. There would be no miracles to see and no glory to give to God. On the other hand, there are many lies Satan plants in our minds, such as, “you are incompetent”, “this is too risky”, “people won’t like you if you speak the truth”, “you are not good enough to do this”, etc. Without being deeply grounded in His truth, how do we expect to live a bold and courageous life? We may believe that we live a decent life, but that is still not pleasing to the Lord because it’s not His will for us to live without His purpose. However, if we truly know the good God who still chose to bless the Israelites after being betrayed so many times, then we can trust Him and rest in His mercies; we can be bold and act according to His will.

Secondly, we must let His love change our lives. If you have been in love before, you may have experienced a time when how other people look at you does not matter anymore, because you are loved and accepted by someone. When you feel loved, suddenly you have all the adventurous spirit and you are willing to try new things you weren’t dare to try before because someone who cares deeply about you is doing it with you. I hope God’s love has the same effect on you like I have mentioned above. We are familiar with the incident when Peter denied Jesus three times, because he was afraid. But we also know how Peter died for Christ as a martyr later in his life. What changed? I believe when Peter saw Jesus again after His resurrection, he had a new understanding of God’s love. He saw a love he didn’t see before and it gave him all the courage and strength to live with God’s purpose fully. God’s love is constant and it never changes, but we need to open our hearts to let it change us. It takes humility, patience, and endurance for it to impact us deeply.

What kind of life would you like to live? A life to meet this world’s expectation or a life that is full based on God’s standards? A life that’s directed by fear or a life directed by faith? If you die tomorrow, would you live your life differently today? I don’t want to look back in 10 years and regret the things I didn’t do because I was too afraid. So, let’s start to live fully now. And let us love people so deeply with Christ’s love until it hurts even when there is no return, because we don’t know if we still have tomorrow. If there is one more day for our lights to shine for Christ, then let us shine it to the brightest before we meet Him face-to-face.

Isaiah 41:10 “So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”

Rekindling Podcast – Season 02, Episode 05 – Know Thyself “Methods”

How do you ‘do’ life, how do you tick?  What are the different nuances to your personality?  How do they contribute to your purpose in life?